The Feast of Tabernacles has begun and it is celebrated for seven days. This is the time Jews spend eating and sometimes sleeping in outdoor booths. In a recent Zionsbanner broadcast that can be found on our website and YouTube channel (just search for the name Jeff Kran), I discussed Acts 15 as it pertains to the inclusion of the Gentiles and the tabernacle of David. In this account, James referred to Amos 9:11-12 as he announced a verdict during the deliberation of the vital Jerusalem Council. Interestingly enough, the Hebrew word for the tabernacle in Amos 9 [סֻכַּ֥ת] was the very same word used, although in a different form, in Leviticus 23 in reference to the Feast of Tabernacles. I do not believe this is an accident but has to do with the very structure of God’s word being a great story, with each book of the Bible serving a special purpose within that story or Canon.
The Jerusalem Council debate in the book of Acts provides us with some important principles. God’s word is to be applied in terms of God’s great plan for the ages, and while it must be understood in its authorial intent, it must also be recognized that the authorial intent of the passage connects to the larger narrative of Scripture. As we read our Bibles we need to understand that it is not all about us, but about God’s kingdom, and we must read the verses in light of something greater than ourselves. This does not mean that we should not garner personal encouragement and apply the Word to our lives personally, but it is all too easy to make ourselves the only frame of reference for understanding the application of Scripture.
Such misapplications can happen on an individual or national scale. I have heard this Old Testament verse used in reference to America: “If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land (2 Chronicles 7:14, NKJV).” While I believe that God does chastise nations and honor His Word when it is followed, the larger picture of this verse is God’s promise to restore the people of Israel if they turn again to Him. Therefore, within the original context of restoring Israel, the better application would be God’s willingness to heal His people from the devastations of sin and to heal churches and revive them, if they will seek Him through the person of Jesus Christ. This ties God’s work among the body of Messiah to His loving nature, and to the original authorial intent in a way that is consistent with the great narrative of Scripture.
Now, those who deliberated in the Jerusalem Council looked at what God was doing and then looked for Scriptural verification. Paul, the cross-cultural evangelist, testified of God’s work among the Gentiles to the Council. The appeal to Scripture was to see whether their perception of God working could be verified in His Word as according to His overall plan and whether it was indeed the confirmation of God’s promise to call people from among the Gentiles and include them among His people.
Preceding this reference to Amos 9, James stated that the prophets agree with the apostles’ conclusion. This means he had other Scriptures dealing with the inclusion of the Gentiles in mind, among them possibly Isaiah 45 and Jeremiah 12. It was not uncommon in Jewish thinking to see a theme and to connect several verses together in one idea. The basis for doing this was the notion that common themes in Scripture could be discerned as one looked at the authorial intent of individual passages and saw a common element to them. We can see from these examples that they understood the connection between God’s Word and His overall purposes, and how each informs the other.
This broadcast further went into the concept of sensus plenior, or a fuller sense to the Scriptures, which we will not cover in this blog, but I will leave you with some of the distilled principles: the individual interpretation of verses connect to the greater plan of God, and there is such a thing as biblical theology; the working of God is always consistent with the Scriptures; and, finally, God is into building His kingdom and it is not all about us as individuals all the time.